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Sanchez might spoil Jets' season

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Recent posts by Eli Kaberon

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Posted Sept. 08, 2010 @ 11:35 a.m. ET
By Eli Kaberon

Spoiler Alert No. 1: On this week's episode of "Hard Knocks," HBO will show all the drama and tension involved with Jets head coach Rex Ryan and owner Woody Johnson heading to Miami to convince All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis to sign a new contract.

Spoiler Alert No. 2: Even with Revis back in the fold, the Jets still won't win the Super Bowl this season.

Revis' contract extension is nothing but positive for the Jets. He is the league's premier cornerback and the key to the attacking defense Ryan wants to run. With the opponent's top wide receiver stranded on "The Island," it allows New York's other 10 defenders to limit yards and force turnovers, two categories in which the Jets excelled in 2009. Offseason acquisitions Jason Taylor and Brodney Pool (through free agency), Antonio Cromartie (via trade) and Kyle Wilson (first-round draft pick) only improve the depth of a unit that allowed the fewest points in the league a season ago.

Ryan has declared his team championship-caliber. The league itself has high hopes for the club, giving the Jets five prime-time night games, including three in the season's first five weeks. And last Sunday, after being told that Revis would sign a contract extension, Cromartie compared the Jets' starting corners with another championship duo.

"He's (Michael) Jordan and I'm (Scottie) Pippen," Cromartie said. "Me tag-teaming with the best cornerback in the NFL and being his sidekick, I'm Pippen and that's something I look forward to."

Yet while the mantra "defense wins championships" still holds true, the comparison to a pair of basketball players with six rings apiece is about as laughable as Cromartie's "Hard Knocks" appearances. It's not purely coincidence that Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and the Manning brothers have won eight of the past nine Super Bowls. Elite QB play is vital come playoff time, when the smallest details are magnified and teams look toward their leader to carry them. The Jets may have the best pass defender in the sport, but their own passer leaves too much to be desired.

Preseason games don't count for much; Revis never broke a sweat and he's expected to come in on opening day and lock down Baltimore's Anquan Boldin. But one thing that the August games can show is a player's development. Jets QB Mark Sanchez's preseason proved that he hasn't yet taken that next step from game manager to game winner. The stats — 64.6 percent completions, two touchdowns, two interceptions, five sacks taken — say that Sanchez still isn't sure where to go with the ball. Physically, the 6-2, 225-pound QB can make every throw in the book. He just hasn't been able to do it quite yet.

Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have said publicly that they aren't worried about Sanchez's development. They have to say that. Ryan can't pound his chest that the Jets will win the Super Bowl if he also is discussing QB problems. But New York will know right away, after games against tough defenses from Baltimore, New England and Miami the first three weeks of the season, if the second-year player is up to the challenge. Top receiving target Santonio Holmes will be suspended for all of those contests, and it will be up to Sanchez, the Jets' running game and the team's other receivers to pick up the slack. The preseason proved the runners are up to the challenge. Is Sanchez?

Of course, with every story comes a plot twist. Maybe the "Hard Knocks" cameras won't follow the Jets' entourage to South Beach to talk to Revis. And maybe Sanchez will prove to be a championship quarterback. But based on what has developed so far on both the show and the field, neither of those twists seems likely.

 

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